jump to navigation

Out of Step with Queer 14 May 2010

Posted by Todd in American Pragmatism, Democratic Theory, Gay Culture, Gay Rights, Modernity and Modernism, Queer Theory.
trackback

An acquaintance of mine asked me this morning to explain what I meant in my profile by being “out of step with the queer left.” It’s a good question, but a complex one that I still struggle with and am not sure about. I find that I both love queer theory and am frustrated by it on many levels. I find that I get giddy when I think about some of the protest actions by Gay Shame here in San Francisco, but that I also find them problematic and elitist. So here’s my attempt to explain to him what I mean by this. In some ways, this is a personal intellectual journey, but it’s also about conclusions I’ve drawn after being immersed in archival and ethnographic research of gay men for the past 8 years.

A few caveats: I think of knowledge as always in process and emergent, so this is just where I am now. I am constantly thinking about this (and I’m currently writing an encyclopedia article about developments in Queer Theory since 2000), and reworking and exploring where I stand. So this is just a snap shot. Secondly, this is a blog, not a journal article, so what follows is necessarily gestural and incomplete, or in process. Third, it’s at a very abstracted level without actual quotes or examples to anchor the discussion. I would love to have more substantive, anchored conversations about this topic, and hope that maybe the conversation could move there in the comments. So here’s my explanation of what I mean by being out of step with the queer left:

1) I’ve always been pretty idealistic, driven by a vision of what the world should be like, especially in terms of justice and equality. My poor little conservative, Republican, mormon parents thought I was Satan spawn in high school. And my classmates and teachers in my tiny rural high school thought I was from outer space. But for better or worse, I find that I’m still driven by that deep belief in justice (although I find recently that I’m growing exhausted with the never ending academic discussions about it and banging my head against the wall trying to get students to break out of their own experience to see the world as it is for so many others around the planet).

2) Both in my undergrad and in my Masters program (where I did Native American studies, and wrote an embarrassing thesis about NA autobiography), I had been steeped in critical theory, especially in the postmodern/deconstructive vein (and not as much but still significantly in the old Marxist vein). But by the time I was into my PhD program (where’d I’d switched to a more sociological orientation) I had started to rethink the assumptions about empiricism and knowledge production that I’d inherited from my cultural studies background up to that point, and I started thinking in really hard terms about the disjuncture between academic discourse about “critique” and real human lives outside of the academy.

3) Around this time, I met one of the two Social Theorists on campus, Robert Antonio (his work most recently has been about Weber and before that Habermas and before that Dewey) who introduced me to the American Pragmatists, and I began reading Pierce, James, Dewey, and Mead voraciously. They begin with the demonstration of the emergent property of knowledge (and truth and culture (although they didn’t use the “c” word yet because it was before the ascendency of Anthropological terms in the field), the contingency (or situatedness) of knowledge (truth and culture), and the details of how human minds produce knowledge. Dewey after WWI took off from there, theorizing how to conceive of problems in the world and solve them given the emergent nature of knowledge. For me, this was a breath of fresh air. It jarred me out of the kind of helpless funk that the posmodern critique can sometimes lead to, and also reoriented how I frame social problems in the world. [And in my professional life, it also led me to symbolic interaction as a method for research, but that’s tangential to this conversation.]

4) I started doing my dissertation research (which eventually led to book research after I finished my degree) about gay men in the 1960s. I started off with a very “queer” lens and a set of values and provisional claims that I thought I was going to make. I worked hard, however, to keep my claims provisional and to allow the evidence to speak and to see what was actually there. If you read the intro and conclusion to my book, for example, you’ll get a good feel for my intellectual orientation in research in this regard. You’ll find that my divergence from “queer studies” per se is subtle, but there. I’m actually really interested to see what reviewers do with the book and how they interpret my intellectual orientation to what have become “queer” problems.

5) Let me now address my relationship to the ‘academic’ side of queer. In a more direct way, this is what I can tell you about “queer”, where I am right now, after having spent 8 years on a dissertation and book about gay men (bearing in mind that I’m being gestural here).

a) I find that a lot of queer theory is more normative than analytical. This is quite ironic, given queer theory’s ostensible eschewal of the normative. Often I actually agree with the normative it’s proposing, but find that the theorists leave their normatives unspoken or uninterrogated, and therefore weak.

b) I find that queer theory often relies on unsubstantiated or poorly evidentiated assumptions, for example, the universality of bisexuality (which is an old Freudian canard, which still shocks me when I find it popping up in queer writers). This more often than not comes from a refusal to address the actual embodiment of human agents, as queer theory most often sees bodies as mere symbolic effects. Here is, for me, an epistemological disagreement I have with a lot of cultural theory since about 1970 (especially that which is derived from French philosophy): Knowledge can only be produced by bodies, through means that evolved, in physical (and symbolic) environments that produce constant feedback to the organism. I find that queer theory most often rests in that line of cultural theory (though often unspoken) that assumes a priori that the symbolic world is completely self-referential and all correspondance to the exterior world of the subject is coincidental or illusory. I come at this from a baseline interactionist perspective, which is that meaning is more than the interaction of symbols and that it is an emergent property of interaction in an environment and that, although the connections to the exterior are contingent, change over time, and contextual, they are nonetheless real, not just in their consequences, but in their origins.

c) Finally, queer theory is often uncritical of its own historical connections to the eponymous “radical” gay and lesbian movement of the early 1970s. Like other liberation movements of the post-war period, the homosexual movement(s) ended up being constituted through an internal schism between the self-described radicals and the other side, called by the radicals everything from “liberal” to “conservative”, “Auntie Toms” and “shameful.” There is in contemporary queer studies an often un-interrogated aesthetic or even nostalgic longing for the movement of 40 years ago, which itself was probelmatically organized out of a desire for “authenticity.” So “queer” today, despite its critiques of authenticity per se, often unconsciously builds upon notions of authentic queerness (especially in its politics) and then produces the normative bent I mentioned above.

6) And now for actual politics in the public realm. This is where things get very muddy for me, and a lot of my discomfort comes from the research I did about gay men 1961-1972 in San Francisco. There is a long history in gay politics of what I’ll call “in-fighting” for lack of a better word; it’s as long as gay politics itself, that emerges (in my opinion) out of LGBT people’s interactions with the dominant culture and their various efforts to create a space for themselves and the consummation of their desires within society. What tends to happen (at least as far as I can see back to the founding of the Mattachine Society) is a sharp conflict over values among LGBT people that gets enacted in a deep moralizing conflict within the “community” (a word I use with great caution and discomfort (again, see my book for details on that point if you want)).

Take “Gay Shame” here in SF. I find that I very often agree with their social critique, and then can’t figure out what the hell they spend all their time protesting other gay people. This is an old tradition in San Francisco, where the moralizing left aims all its frustration and anger at other gay people. The baseline interaction becomes about who is doing gay (or queer) correctly, rather than on effecting social change that expands the freedom and possibilities of gayness in the lives of real life queers. To say this more clearly: The battle becomes over the right way to be gay, rather than over the transformation of the social structures of oppression.

Think of the battle over gay marriage. If you’ll allow me some cartoon caricatures for the sake of argument, to the far left, the critique is of the institution of marriage itself and the patriarchal relationship between genders, and between parents and children, and between individuals and the state. To the far right, the effort is for assimilation and acceptance, for full “Americanness” and normality. [I think both sides are far more subtle than this, but you see where I’m going.] So here in SF, you got queers-on-the-left protesting against the protests against Prop 8, because of course any gay person who would want marriage is a dupe or stupid or a tool of “the Man”. When I was marching in the massive shut down of Market Street the day after elections in 2008, I felt like I was in a time machine watching Gay Sunshine protest against S.I.R. in 1970. Surreal.

In the interactionist mode, marriage has already been massively transformed by the past 200 years of feminist and more recently LGBT action. Marriage today simple is not what it used to be even 50 years ago. And it will continue to change. LGBTs trying to get marriage can reinforce its social valence and power, but it also necessarily transforms it. This leaves aside the very real inequalities, some of them horrifying and inhuman (see the Governor of Minnesota’s recent veto for example) that result from the current state of affairs.  LGBTs having the right to marry can be domesticating, but it can also be transformative. Both. At the same time. Gays in the military can be a normalization of masculinity among gay men; it can also be a transformation of masculinity in the military and in society in general. So the real-world effects and the real-human desires at play seem to be both more simple and more complex than queer politics would have them be.

Whereas I want to create a society that gives the widest range possible for the expression of non-normal (in the statistical sense) sexualities by expanding freedom and access, and whereas I find that I often agree with the baseline criticisms of queer theory and activism, I find that queer practice can be normative, moralizing, and exclusive.

Advertisements

Comments

1. Mike - 14 May 2010

Nice to see you blogging 🙂

2. Todd - 14 May 2010

Thanks Mike. I’m going to try do to a good, substantive blog post at least 1/week over the summer. We’ll see.

3. shannon - 14 May 2010

Well, I don’t have a lot to add, because yours strikes me as a practical and common-sense approach. I think I’m harder than you are on the far-left contingent: to me, for instance, not liking the parochial institution of marriage is just fine but it’s *no argument at all* against perpetuating unequal access to that institution. Don’t like marriage? Don’t get married! DONE. Very simple. I have as much patience for those who wish to constrain the rights and choices of others in the furtherance of some radical/revolutionary cause as I do for those who want to do the same thing in the name of Jeebus.

Actually, there is a difference: I see the far-left contingent as mostly just silly, while the far-right contingent retains an enormous amount of political control and poses a gigantic and ongoing threat to all kinds of personal liberties. So, I’m willing to spend a lot more energy trying to understand and combat (or, to whatever degree it may be possible, co-opt) the far right than I am in doing the same thing for the leftists.

4. Todd - 14 May 2010

One more intellectual critique of queer theory: The normative aspect of queer practice often devolves into queerness as an end-in-itself. So rather than queer practice being aimed at expanding the possibilities for self-realization of non-normal sexualities and genders, the oppositional quality of queerness becomes the actual goal. That’s how the normative gets ossified in practice, as an end, rather than a means. In that way, queerness risks losing sight altogether of the reason why we might engage in oppositional sexual practice in the first place (either to instantiate a different social structure or to express or engage in an individual consummatory behavior).

5. Alvin Mangosing - 15 May 2010

Well written Todd.

6. Barry Shank - 15 May 2010

Todd, thanks for taking the time to write up your thoughts here. I promise to read your book in the summer–hopefully after my own ms is done. I think you’re quite wise to position your politics and your theoretical orientation together in the way that you do. And to still express some amazement at the way not only queer left, but the left in general attacks itself. Of course, in an era when the closest we get to power is the current Obama administration, there seems to be a lot to criticize. That aside, I think that a lot of us are in a position that is very close to yours. We want to make the current situation better. That means working from the current situation and with the current powers. And that gets us back to looking/sounding like the Obamas. Not necessarily and not directly or immediately. But that possibility, the nearly inevitable result of dealing with power stripping one of the ideals and dreams for a truly better world in the name of “reality” or something, is what stops me and maybe others from being gung ho about working in the here and now and real. This might be a weakness of character. But I want to imagine the significantly better more than I want to work for the basically the same. Maybe…..

B

7. Kane - 16 May 2010

I dig it. I’m totally in step with you regarding what I often call the Über-Queer that seem to criticize others for not being gay enough in relation to the mainstream. It is not unlike the position that someone is Jewish but not Jewish enough or black but not black enough. (I feel normative but not normative enough in sone respects.) I also do not necessarily see the Über-Queer as anything but gay adolesence transitioned to gay high school kids. They construct a hierarchy to perform their self-imposed status in the schoolyard at the expense of shared community (a word I also see as loaded). They are the mean girls who expect to be emulated but not joined, reframing all others in comparison to their expressions and definitions of queerness.

I appreciate how you position yourself in the narrative though I’m not sure I understand your point about bodies given that you later put yourself in the context of a march which necessarily places you in a bodily performance of your gayness, if that makes sense. But bodies are very in with Performance Studiew right now so consider me somewhat brainwashed.

As a blog it works to pepper on your own life experience to reference you particular subjective location while humanizing your discourse. I am curious about how much you include to make your points versus how much you use to validate your authority to make such points. Linking your sense of justice to this issue is bold and provocative–does telling us you were an alien in highschool confirm your position or define a pattern of being subaltern but not being subaltern enough? In a place like SF where gay becomes normatized, does the Über-Queer seek to reclaim that subaltern space? Do they wish to re-ghettoize the gay identity as an assumptive act of preservation performed as radicalism or are they seeking to destabilize the community solely to give themselves status?

I’m not sure but I like the way your blog got me thinking. Yay!

–K

PS I’m new to responding to such rich material so I hope I didn’t totally miss the point. You are way smarter than me and I like how it challenges me to go further. 🙂

8. Todd - 16 May 2010

Kane,

Briefly, this was a response written among friends, so I personalized it. clearly if I wrote this in a journal article, it would be much more formal and detailed and specific. It’s kinda creepy to reference my book, but I was trying to speak in shorthand without a big rehearsal of long complex arguments. I included myself in the argument in order specifically to personalize it. I was responding to a question from someone I know about my own feelings about being out of step with “queer”.

Per bodies in performance studies, I dont’ know the field very well at all, so please correct me where I’m wrong here. But my impression of what I have read in performance studies is that it treats the body as the instrument of discourse, rather than as the thing itself. My critique is coming from the cultural theory that has dominated cultural studies for about 30 years now, where bodies are “inscribed” by discourse and determined by it. That is what I reject. The body *is* the human, and the world of meaning arises in an embodied experience of the world (which is also why it changes over time). I’m responding to the French post-structural bent in much of cultural theory that conceives of “discourse” as a free-floating, self-referential entity that determines human cognition and experience.

I do think that for Queer, being subaltern (a word I have some problems with, but I get) is an end in itself, and it’s the very meaning of “Queer”. If gayness in some way becomes banal socially, queer loses its rationale. But it’s also tied up in the history of queer, which I tried to bring up, that goes all the way back to the gay lib movement in the early 1970s, and queerness’s belief that they do it ‘right’.

But like I said, I usually agree with the critique that queer theory is making (although I also think its epistemology is nearly always wrong). Where it loses me is in the enactment of its politics. “Queer” is by and large an academic intellectual orientation rather than an actual political movement. The only time you see it outside of the academy is from recent graduates from college. That’s why I find it to be incredibly elitist on the ground. Gay Shame here in SF basically spent all its time and effort (if it’s still around, I haven’t heard from them in a while) telling other gay people that they JUST DON’T GET IT. I find it to be a collasal waste of political energy and frankly unethical.

9. Todd - 16 May 2010

Barry,

I think that I agree with you about retreating to the ideal world and feeling the exhaustion and frustration with working with the “real” in politics. My problem with queer politics isn’t that it’s idealistic.

I think my real discomfort comes from a few things (again acknowledging that I’m being gestural here**):

a) It tends to function in practice as a rubric for hierarchalizing LGBT people on a range of political acceptability, and that rubric is usually detached from reality. For example, in the literature about the time period I studied, with a few exceptions, the trend is to idolize the “gay libbers” and see them as the engine of change; but empirically, on the ground, it was actually a set of men and women who fought court cases, ran for office, protested the DOJ, SCOTUS, etc., and worked to get laws changed who actually expanded the publicity and citizenship of LGBT people. I do not want to discount or undervalue the role of cultural resitance (art, gender practice, etc.). But I also don’t want to privilege it.

b) It tends to appropriate and coopt individuals and groups and movements for its own academic purposes, based on its own values. As Kane said above, it’s often about abjection and resistance as ends-in-themselves. Drag queens and artists and everyday people get sucked up into “Queer” when they are studied by academics, regardless of how those people see themselves or understand their own lives.

c) in research, queer theory often functions as a priori assumptions of the researcher, which in turn guides everything from choices about objects of study to the conclusions drawn at the end. I started my research project with very particular ideas about what I was going to find (and I hoped to map out why a particular “true” politic arose with the gay libbers). But Bob kept pushing me through the dissertation process early on with questions like, “but is that empirically true? is that really what happened? what did that practice or word or idea mean in its context?” etc. This opens up a whole other can of worms, but the further down the path I get, the more I feel that any theoretical notions that a researcher holds before a project should have very limited roles in the project itself, and that those before-research theories should be held very lightly, very provisionally, very contingently, in order to allow the data/objects/people to speak and reveal themselves. A theory should arise out of working with the data/objects/people, not drive the project before it’s done, not function as an a priori hermeneutic.

d) Because queer theory (more than most cultural theory, but about the same as some strands within feminist theory) has such a strong normative bent, it also creates a kind of boundary drawing among scholars and with the people they are studying. This is an ethical concern to me, and here I will give my own normative stance: I think that I have an ethical responsibility to be compassionate and equanimous with the people I study. What I mean by that is that it’s my responsibility to fully understand them and describe them fairly and accurately. If I arrive at the object of my study with an already-formed notion of what a “good queer” is, then I am potentially blinded to the contexts, circumstances, desires, values, objects, experiences that drive the people I’m studying. I do think it’s appropriate to evaluate the consequences of the behavior of the people we are studying; but again, I think that is something that must be done with great care, with as much data as possible, and after and through the lens of compassion for them.

10. Todd - 16 May 2010

**I can still hear Barry’s voice echoing in my head 15 years later about how my argument is too gestural and I need to deal in concrete specifics and details. The sign of a great teacher when your wisdom sticks with a student so much that he still evaluates his work based on it and uses to in teaching his own students now.

11. Alan Williams - 16 May 2010

The universality of bisexuality as a “old Freudian canard” remains valid since the homosexual-heterosexual dyad is still obviously in use. The dyad is contradictory because it posits a “minority” that is gay and a “majority” that “could be gay” by engaging in specific same-gender acts, which opens the symbolic realm of bisexuality for all. This was Sedgwick’s argument, and it was an argument about the construction of gender and the linking of gender to sexual object choice. I believe it has a lot of use when translated into actual bodies taking up discourse. Remember, neither bodies nor discourse come first. They’re interlinked. So, even if “true bisexuals” are a “minority,” American sexuality (at least those locales that take up “gay/straight”) are caught up in this dialectic so that bisexuality is an ever-present concern or joy or whatever, even if people aren’t practicing it (which they are, so the point is moot). You only have to look to arguments against gay marriage and fears regarding the gender-normativity of future children to see “bisexuality for all” still very much in discursive play.

I’m not as read on the relationships between queer theory, queer studies, LGBT studies, ethnic studies, performance studies, ect, as I’d like to be, but I do think “queer” is lot more open than how you’re portraying it here. For instance, I’m looking at queerness and religion studies, in which discusses about gay marriage or gayness within a normative site (say, Mormonism) is very much “queer.” Queerness becomes useful to think about sexuality/gender in sites where “gay/straight” may not necessarily be the leading identitarian framework (e.g, Mormonism, which uses “eternal gender”). In SF, where gays argue against gays about gay marriage or questions of race, class, gender, etc, there are simply different discussions going on because there are different sets of norms. Now, the question of whether the in-fighting is a detriment to the “community,” if queerness becomes an “end-in-itself” because “a priori” assumptions are made about the uses and abuses of difference, then this is when I’d ask for concrete examples. In my mind, queer applies to multiple sites and not just what “non-normative” people are doing or expressing.

12. Mats - 23 May 2010

Thank you for starting this discussion, Todd!

To give my thrownness (viva Heidegger http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uSdHoNJu5fU ): Swede, nurse and sexologist. Picked up my queer theory in its Swedish reception and where I am influenced by Tiina Rosenberg, JJ Halberstam and Robert McRuer (crip theory).

Academic queer: Yes, I agree, I fear a lot of queer theorizing has lost its edge and become institutionalized with a sacred queer Canon. And where is the new in queer? To me that has several reasons, but where it is easier to be part of something that is institutionalized and accepted than being the salt of the earth – particularly if you want to be funded or tenured (so much for academic liberty!). (And it has from the start been questions raised whether queer theory really is a theory or not…) But those institutionalizing processes, I think, triggers a normative stance. To me that is very regrettable though. And the discussions about sexualities that were the early starters in the theorizing seem to have become forgotten. I am convinced that they opponents don’t care about whom I love but what I do in bed (or where ever).

Some of what you have described have been discussed by Halberstam in hir discussions about the anti-social turn in queer theory. The glorification of previous history is there, and so are other things. (Halberstam, J. (2008). The Anti-Social Turn in Queer Studies. Graduate Journal of Social Science, 5(2), 140-156.)

The lack of new theorizing, IMHO, leads to a stronger normativity – and that’s where I see the practice in gay shame come into play. I see that a critique is needed both internally within the LGBTIQ movementS (plural), but also societally. It can of course be argued where the critique ought to start, or if it ought to be done simultaneously?

Regarding marriage that can be seen as a very contested issue within the queer moment – see e.g. Butler, J. (2002). Is kinship always already heterosexual? differences: A Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, 13(1), 14-44. From a Swedish horizon I can see that unifying the marriage and registered partnership codes to one marriage code has transformed gay and lesbian life (less so bi or trans, thus far to my knowledge), and where heterosexual norms from the 1950s have become the role models. WTF?

Another, and somewhat contradictory, thought is: are we tired of being queer? (Similar to the HIV/AIDS fatigue described for some gay men.) Being kicked around takes energy… Falling into norms provides less of resistance?

13. Todd - 26 May 2010

Another friend of mine has engaged me in a different but parallel conversation about the usefulness/uselessness of the HRC. I find the HRC to be feckless sycophants to power; and my friend finds their values to be somewhat regressive, in that they fall more to the “liberal” side of politics as opposed to the “radical” (I apologize if I’m misrepresenting him here; hopefully he’ll come correct me if so). I think my most recent interchange with him might be useful in this discussion here, as it overlaps with my unease with queer theory writ large, so I’m pasting it here to add to the conversation:

You give the HRC way too much credit. The on-the-ground movements that are nearly always local are who have been fighting for those three rights you list [DADT, marriage, adoption]. The HRC has been, at best, a neutral observer to progress (see my earlier comment about their inside-baseball sycophantism), but I think even *that* is too generous. With DADT, they have been a roadblock, and with gay marriage/parenting they have been completely useless as advocates [caving to DOMA and supporting whoever the current administration is].

What troubles me about your comment [to be clear, this is a broader issue I have, not about you or your ideas specifically, so I’m using your comment as a springboard of sorts] is actually a piece of my problem with ‘queer theory’.

a) it uses the idea of “liberal” as if it’s a bad thing or inferior in some way, yet as far as I can tell, there are no substantive proposals for a replacement social system. The “liberal” agenda is to transform and reshape the democratic social interactions to expand the tent of freedom and the scope of recognition in a continual dialectic with the cultural dominant [i.e., that project never ends, because freedom and equality should be treated as ends-in-view in the Deweyan sense].

b) it tends to aestheticize and privilege a particular kind of cultural expression as “radical” (and therefore superior) without ever acknowledging the power behind such a designation or how the aestheticized “radical” functions as a new normative. [And in academia, this vision is the dominant vision, especially within your and my field, meaning that carries a lot of weight and power in graduation, hiring, retention, publication, and tenure.]

c) I understand intellectually the critique of binaries, but I believe that we need a more careful way to talk about disrupting the gay/straight binary, because I think that most humans empirically are heterosexual (in both their sexual and relational preferences). I’m all for creating spaces for people who are some degree of bisexual; for people whose desires change over their life course; for people who have sex or relationships for reasons other than orientation or sexual desire per se; for people whose specific sexual practices fall well outside of ‘vanilla’; etc. Where I get a bit uneasy is when the disruption of the binary becomes a normative bisexuality, which I find problematic on about 15 different levels, from empirical to ethical. That is, a mandatory bisexuality is as oppressive as a mandatory heterosexuality (or a mandatory homosexuality would be (thanks ancient Athens!)). [edited to add: Freud’s (and by extension, Foucault’s) “polymorphous perversity” is a fascinating theoretical idea, but has very little to support it empirically, and functions in my opinion as a problematic normative because it fails to recognize that the vast majority of humans aren’t polymorphously perverse. I think the idea of minimizing sexual/relational normatives at a social level is a good one; but I think that that minimization should be the end-in-view, *not* the creation of a society where everyone is polymorphously perverse. In other words, create the social structures that support what I called earlier a maximization of a freedom to choose the sexual practices that the individual wants, but without an expectation that everyone is going to become sexually polymorphous. To repeat, a minimization of structural barriers to choice without the expectation of a particular outcome in sexual practice.]

d) I think that there’s a kind of fetishization of cross-issue politics within cultural studies that gets very problematic on the ground in a social movement. So I find myself nodding vigorously at the suggestion of bringing in class issues to the discussion, yet I have deep misgivings about what that actually would look like in practice. Let me break this down a bit further:

i-some of the best and most profound critiques of queer theory come from lefty marxists (e.g., Hennessy) who point to queer theory’s problematic focus on ‘culture’ at the expense of substantive inequality.

ii-whereas we know that different kinds of privilege (and concomitant distribution of kinds of capital) are overlapping and often mutually constitutive (buzz word jargon alert!!), it is also clear that the social structures that enable them and reproduce them are not the same and require different kinds of social action to change. So the social action required to solve distribution inequalities are not going to be the same as the social actions necessary to solve legal recognition injustice (although they *are* connected). I would agree that a healthy rights politic for sexual minorities should ally itself with a healthy movement for distributive justice (as if such a thing even existed in the U.S.!), but their purposes and goals IN ACTUAL PRACTICE need to be relatively separate because their ends-in-view, again although related, are not the same. The struggle for sexual minorities to be allowed to express their love in public at, say, a high school prom is not the same as the struggle for justice for immigrants working in a slaughterhouse. Alliance, yes. Blending of causes…I can’t imagine the practice that would effect such a blended politic.

iii-I think we need to recognize that there is no such thing as a society without dominant (and layers of dominant within minority communities) cultural forms and practices, and that fact is inescapable. Especially in large-scale modern post-industrial societies, there is no way such a thing could exist, if there is any truth at all to baseline human social behavior (which I believe there is). Whereas queer theory seems to focus all its attention (and cultural studies writ large, frankly) seems to focus all of its attention on pointing out the dominance (which *is* a worthy project), I think the political project empirically must be to create a culture where the dominant loses certain kinds of social privilege in the institutions, particularly the power to enforce its dominance through structural inequality (e.g., laws, regulations, courts).


Sorry comments are closed for this entry

%d bloggers like this: